I met Kel Steiner for the first time on a lay-over at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on a dreary day in 2008. A mutual friend urged us to make a meeting work. Serendipitously, we were both in Illinois at the same time and could meet, though we had never met before, and didn’t even know what the other looked like. This is something I would soon discover was par for Kel’s course: what seem random meetings with perfect strangers turn quite often into incredible adventures that leave an indelible mark on those caught up in the happenstance.
Our friend was one of the many people urging Kel to finally get some of his stories down on the page, and perhaps he and I could collaborate. Next to the luggage conveyor belt, we decided we could, but as it had for years, travel and a vigorous speaking schedule made it difficult to start.
A year later, I received an email from the New Zealand-born missionary while he was in Finland. He had been on a whirlwind trip through Hong Kong, Malaysia, central China and had landed in Scandinavia with plans to head home to his family who hadn’t seen him in too long. He invited me to where he was living in Colorado Springs during his month-long hiatus from his work to roll up our sleeves together and get to work.
What resulted from that week hunkered down in his office, and many more weeks to follow corresponding through email and Skype calls is Adventures in Saying Yes to God, a missions biography and adventure story. The book gestated for awhile after our collaboration and finally went to press earlier this year after the hard work and contribution of many other hands.
What drew me to collaborate with Kel was the opportunity to help a great man give a personal account of his life which is comprised of stories that are breathtaking and sometimes surreal – stories that, because of their incredible nature can stir up cynicism and doubt. But those initial and deep-rooted sentiments are conquered by the truth and courage those same stories bring to life through their telling.
Not born into a life of comfort, Kel wasn’t handed anything but opportunity to believe and express a genuine faith in God. For him, that changed everything. Kel belongs to a generation of women and men who lived with a hard-working inclination and a perpetual optimism: all things are possible with human wit and a divine push.
I hope in reading the book you will experience what I did in helping to write it: head-scratching, jaw-dropping exhilaration at these true life adventures. Lost at sea and surrounded by sharks. Meeting a never-before-contacted tribe in remote jungles. Near death experiences. Mysterious, even miraculous provision. And some romance thrown in the mix.
Certainly, the book that has resulted, is a labour of love of which I have played a small part. Available throughout the world wherever Kel goes with his suitcase of books and through the deft distribution of Amazon for both e-book and print, I also have a stash that I’m distributing in Canada.
As we continue to work to share his adventure stories – stories that will build your belief that, with God, the impossible can be made possible – I decided to catch up with Kel and ask 10 Qs. A man constantly on the move, Kel’s answers are short but sweet.
Kel was pulled into the adventure of missions by reading biographies of people like William Carey, CT Studd and Hudson Taylor. His hope in writing the book was to inspire people to join into the same kind of adventures he was inspired to pursue when he was young.
I hope you’ll read the book and be both challenged and inspired!
If you’re in Red Deer and would like to save on shipping see the info below the interview for how you can pick up your own copy on October 24.
As you read these stories – no matter to what adventure God calls you – you will learn principles that are universal. As I read it, I could only say “wow”: it was like walking through memory lane, seeing things from the past that work in the present, and that will continue to work in the future.
~ Loren Cunningham, Founder of Youth With A Mission
Andrew Kooman: People have been asking you to put your stories from the mission field down on the page for years. Why was it important of you to bring the book to life now?
Kel Steiner: I became aware that these stories could be used as a potential means of helping mobilize the next wave of young missionaries out to the field.
AK: People are reading this book all over the world. What’s the response been like to it so far?
KS: I’ve had some exciting responses. I gave a copy to a neighbour who happens to be an academic with no church affiliation. When I asked if she’d had time to glance over the book, she told me she’d read every word, and re-read the first five chapters. Her comments were that it was a serious book and had really changed her.
AK: Whether it’s about nearly dying at sea, surrounded by sharks or encountering lost-tribes in the jungle, you have incredible experiences that seem like something out of a movie. Why do you think you’ve experienced such adventure?
KS: Anyone can if they make themselves available to the Lord and willing to go where and when He leads.
From the Back Cover:
God could have compelled me when I was young to be a missionary in other ways, but he did it through stories of missionaries. Hudson Taylor. CT Studd. William Carey. These men were heroes to me when I was a boy. They stood like towering figures in my imagination. Men whose lives I aspired to emulate. Men, who by simply responding in obedience to the call of God, changed the world. God’s call on my life certainly changed it and my world. And that’s the story I want to tell you…
~ Kel Steiner
AK: Do you have a favourite part of the world to visit? Where would you take someone who’s never traveled to really see the world?
KS: Perhaps the Philippines, they are Asian, have a significant understanding of English, a wide variety of culture and food and a stable democratic government. You’d get to see sophisticated Makati City in Metro Manila, to the simple village life of the rice farming communities, to the poor who live in squatter zones and slums, to mountain tribes people and the many beautiful Islands dotted with their fishing communities around the coast.
AK: How has mission work or the life of a missionary changed since you were a young adult embarking on your first trips?
KS: Evangelism has taken on many new forms, training programs, travel, communication tools and media have also advanced significantly. When we started there were no cell phones, computers or fax machines.
AK: Do you think that there are certain personalities or types pre-disposed to mission work? If so or if not, who is mission work for?
KS: Missions are for every believer, one is either a missionary or a mission field.
AK: For most of your adult life you’ve been a missionary with Youth With A Mission. How will organizations like YWAM continue to thrive in the next 50 years?
KS: By continuing to remain strategically focused on the unfinished task of world evangelism.
AK: You’re known for you humour and turn the idea of the unsmiling missionary on it’s head. Why is it important to keep things light, especially when you’re doing serious work?
KS: It’s important for YWAM communities to be healthy places, we believe laughter and fun is both important and therapeutic.
AK: What does the next chapter of life hold for you?
KS: More of the same…
AK: What do you hope audiences will take away from this book?
KS: My hope is that they might say, “That’s what I’d like to do” and find some meaningful way to become a contributor to missions. One is never too old to get started. YWAM DTS’s take in students of all ages. So, if you’re still breathing, you’re a candidate.
PICK UP INSTRUCTIONS FOR RED DEER:
To pick up in Red Deer, buy the book here. When you are in the check out and filling out the shipping options, select “Pick Up” use Postal Code T4N 4B6 . You can get your copy from me in person at The Space on Friday, October 24.
Learn more about Kel’s work at YWAM Myrtle Beach.
Read more interviews between AK and other bold artists, activists and thinkers here.